Marlon sat down in his chair and clasped his hands together. Lobelia swallowed and approached Marlon.
“Speak,” he ordered. “What does Jade Ferrado want from you?”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Lobelia replied. She did not intend to reveal any information, as she did with Josephine. Marlon looked at Lobelia with his sunken eyes.
“Perhaps,” he spoke again, his voice very low. “Did your mother tell you anything before she died? For example…” he trailed off, “stories about me.”
Lobelia knew he was asking her if she knew of his betrayal and it made her blood boil. How audacious this rotten man was! He was scared Julia might have told her daughter the truth. But once again, Lobelia’s unusual advantage saved her. She looked at Marlon calmly, burying her anger underneath a facade. She felt Marlon’s probing gaze; if she showed even the slightest of emotion now, he would notice everything. Lobelia repeated the same words one more time.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” she said.
“You don’t know?” Marlon raised his eyebrows. “Are you sure you don’t know anything?”
“Yes,” Lobelia replied passively. Marlon sighed and tapped his fingers on the table. There was a strange nuance in his sigh that Lobelia couldn’t interpret. Marlon remained silent for a moment, and no longer questioned Lobelia. Lobelia remained vigilant.
“You hate me, right?” Marlon suddenly said. Lobelia hurriedly lowered her eyes. She had no choice but to admit it; it’d be futile to deny what was obvious. She had wanted to stab him to death many times. If she had remained an ordinary girl, and without the knowledge of the Original, she would have succumbed to the devil’s whispers. But Lobelia wasn’t an ordinary girl.
She was a child who fought against her tears and recited verses from an old book next to her mother while she was being smothered in water. She was also the one who, upon learning the truth of the world, hardened her heart and vowed revenge.
Lobelia lifted her head and looked at Marlon innocently, mimicking Aina. She donned the face of a gullible girl who knew nothing about the world and believed that goodwill existed in the world. “Why do you ask that?” she asked meekly. Marlon stared at her, taken aback at her expression. Lobelia bit the inside of her lip as if Marlon’s gaze was piercing her.
“Isn’t Josephine and Aina too much for you?” he asked, “I have eyes and ears, I know that much.”
“It’s natural that the countess and the lady hate me. I’m an illegitimate child born of my mother’s infidelity.” Lobelia laughed as she spoke the words that had plagued her all her life—not to reveal her misery, but so as not to be caught holding a dagger. “I defiled the name of Evelentia. On that subject, I am living under your grace,” she said, smiling even deeper as if to show her gratitude towards Marlon.
Lobelia felt nauseous for having to pretend, but she had to make it to the end. It was her only way out of this cursed mansion.
“Their hatred towards me is reasonable,” she finished. Marlon looked at Lobelia, the corner of his lips curving into a satisfied smile.
“Yes,” he said, “you have lightened the burden of my heart by thinking so.” Lobelia had to do everything in her power to keep the smile on her face. “Go ahead. If Josephine and Aina bully you, tell me right away.” Lobelia bowed her head in greeting and exited the study very slowly. Until the door closed behind her, she didn’t shed a single emotion.
After returning to the outhouse, Lobelia made sure no one was around, and then collapsed on the bed. She moved her hand to fiddle with her mother’s necklace that she had hidden under her clothes. The sharp edge of the pendant dug into the flesh of her palm, awakening her mind.
I can leave this house tomorrow.
Lobelia endured the night with that one hope.